3 Starbucks Go on Strike, Hampton Ave. Shop Closes for the Day

Unionized stores join the "Red Cup Rebellion," striking over failed contract negotiations

click to enlarge Riley Staack (third from left) on strike with other Hampton Starbucks workers.
ROSALIND EARLY
Riley Staack (third from left) on strike with other Hampton Starbucks workers.

Workers at more than 100 Starbucks locations across the country are striking today after employees say Starbucks refused to negotiate union contracts.

St. Louis area Starbucks have joined in what’s come to be called the #RedCupRebellion. Thursday is the first day that stores across the country are handing out the red holiday cups and is typically one of the biggest sales days of the year. But on Hampton near Forest Park, the store is closed and employees have been standing outside striking since 4 a.m.

Riley Staack, 32, a store supervisor and organizer of the action, says that Starbucks corporate won’t negotiate contracts with unionized stores. Employees from the Hampton and Kingshighway at Chippewa stores met with corporate on November 2. Staack says the eight-hour bargaining session lasted just four minutes and 15 seconds before representatives from Starbucks corporate walked out. The employees had set a timer because they’d heard no meeting with corporate had gone longer than four minutes.

The employees filed a complaint about the failure to bargain with the National Labor Relations Board, because it is required by federal law to negotiate a contract with unionized employees within a year. The Hampton Starbucks unionized in June.

“Their nationwide plan seems to be to string along contract negotiations and drag them out, and the high turnover rate that they cause can get stores’ union support weakened to the point that they can challenge the union and have it decertified,” Staack says.

Starbucks has been accused of hundreds of violations of the National Labor Act for how it’s handled store unionizations. The Washington Post wrote an article about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in which they quoted Richard Bensinger, an organizer who has worked with Starbucks baristas, saying Schultz “hates unions more than he loves money.”

A.J. Jones, an executive vice president of communications with the company, told NPR that Starbucks is not holding up bargaining agreements. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Jones said, asserting that the company has been scheduling bargaining sessions and that union leaders have been the issue because they want to record or broadcast negotiations on social media.

The union denied those claims to NPR.

After the failed bargaining session for the St. Louis stores, the Hampton location voted to join today’s national strike. The Kingshighway at Chippewa store declined to strike today, but the stores on Hanley at Dale and Clayton at Lindbergh participated in the Red Cup Rebellion during peak business hours. Staack described that as a two-hour window, typically in the morning, when Starbucks stores have their highest number of customers. The time is roughly between 7 to 9 a.m.

Cars and trucks honked in solidarity as they drove past the No Contract No Union signs this morning. Employees on the picket line said this is not about trying to destroy Starbucks. They like their jobs.

“If we didn’t, we would go work somewhere else,” Staack says.

But Starbucks raised the wages of employees at nonunion stores, and some on the picket line say the store has been understaffed and they’ve been asked to do the work that was previously handled by several employees. For contract negotiations, the employees want an increase to their pay and benefits.

The Hampton strike will last the entire day, and employees will return to work unconditionally tomorrow.

“Everyone’s been really vocally supportive for the most part,” Staack says, which isn’t surprising. “St. Louis has a long history of being a working class union town.”

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About The Author

Rosalind Early

Rosalind is the editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She formerly worked for Washington University's alumni magazine and St. Louis Magazine. In 2018, she was selected as a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. In 2014, she was selected as an Emerging Leader by FOCUS St. Louis. Her work...
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